Anxiety disorders encompass a broad spectrum of mental health concerns. With 1 out of every 3 adults in the United States experiencing anxiety at some point in their lives, it is something that a good amount of us have encountered.
Healthline describes anxiety as the feeling of “fear or apprehension” that acts as one’s natural response to stress. While anxiety can serve to keep us safe in situations that pose threats to our safety or wellbeing, it becomes an issue when this apprehension rears itself in instances where it isn’t needed.
Anxiety not only inhibits one from living comfortably and without restraint, but also prevents them from living in the present moment. Once we find ourselves overwhelmed with anxious thoughts, it is time to consider mindfulness and a mindful lifestyle.
What is mindfulness? According to well-being specialist Tanya Peterson, mindfulness is an “approach to mental health and well-being that involves using the senses to pay attention to what’s happening around you and inside you, in the here and now.”
Anxiety occurs when one concerns themselves with the past and future, rather than the present. There are two issues with this state of being: first, the past is in the past and you can’t change what has already happened. Second, the future has not happened yet — so the anxious mind resorts to creating a multitude of hypotheticals that may not even end up happening.
Mindfulness urges us to step away from our anxious thoughts of the past and future and focus on what is happening right now in this waking moment. This allows us to not only let go of things that we have no power over but also regain control over things that we do.
Practicing mindfulness is something that, for many, needs to be a conscious effort. In a session with Mindful Direct Pop-up Studio, meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn explained that mindfulness is something to be done with effort.
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” Kabat-Zinn said. Kabat-Zinn then went on to explain that mindfulness based stress reduction (MSBR) has been shown to increase brain activity in parts of our brains that are not usually activated when we allow our mindless subconscious thinking to take over.
Mindful.org gives a few tips for someone hoping to “tune into mindfulness” throughout their day: set aside time to work on your mental health, observe the present moment as it is, let your judgments roll by, and be kind to your wandering mind.
The goal of mindful thinking is to place a cushion between what is happening around us and the way we react to it. Once one can gain the ability to comfortably grab the steering wheel of their train of thought and redirect their thinking to a more healthy and helpful direction, anxiety will take its place in the backseat.